Within minutes of meeting her, you will be enamored by Kyndal’s adorable smile and blue eyes. However, there is more to her than just a beautiful face. It will quickly become apparent that she is fiercely independent and will do what it takes to accomplish tasks on her own. With an intense therapy regimen requiring physical therapy four days a week, Kyndal has become a familiar face at Heartspring and many staff members have played a part in her therapy.
“It is just the type of personality Kyndal has, you want to cheer for her,” said Shannon Ratermann, Heartspring physical therapist. “It has really grown into a team effort. There are always several people involved in encouraging her.”
Just after turning one year old, Kyndal was diagnosed with a type of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the nerves in the body and how they communicate with the brain. Specifically, spastic diplegia affects the elasticity of the muscles in the lower extremity. This makes walking and standing upright very difficult. Additionally, cerebral palsy affects speech, thus making communication difficult. It was then, at the age of 13 months, that she began speech and physical therapy at Heartspring.
When Kyndal was about six months old her mother Shawna started noticing she was not hitting milestones. “We have an older son and I just remembered from when he was a baby and what he was doing. She just was not doing any of that.”
After mentioning it to her pediatrician several times, Shawna was finally able to get a referral to an orthopedist in Kansas City. After an evaluation determined it was not related to bone growth, they were then referred to Dr. Parks, a neurologist in St. Louis. It was he who suggested a relatively new surgery that would help loosen Kyndal’s legs and enable her to walk and stand more independently.
“We had been doing other types of treatments and physical therapy at Heartspring leading up to the visit with Dr. Parks. After meeting with him and doing research on our own, we knew this was what we wanted to do.” Shawna recalls the day of the surgery, “It was a tough day. But the next day they had her sitting up in bed and the nurses were very excited at how well she could sit after just one day. From then on as we have seen her progress we have just known it was the right thing to do.”
Prior to the surgery Kyndal was attending both speech and physical therapy at Heartspring. Due to the need for intense physical therapy to keep her muscles loose and to teach her to walk, speech therapy had to be postponed. However, her improvements with muscle control and strength have proven to be worth it.
“Her improvement has been dramatic,” says Ratermann. “Before we were working on walking on her knees with two handed assists, now she is walking with a walker with only minor assistance.”
Shawna is confident that Kyndal can accomplish anything just by witnessing what she has achieved in her short life. “She is such a fighter. When I see where she has come from I am just in shock. We are determined to have her walking by Kindergarten and I have no doubt that she will do it.”
It has truly been a rallying effort as so many want to see Kyndal succeed. Ratermann is quick to point out that there are many involved in her accomplishments. “When anyone sees her in the hall they jump right in and provide a motivator for her. It might be a game of chase to get her to walk faster or a sticker to get her to walk a longer distance, but it has really been a team effort.”
Lacy Cary, who checks Kyndal and her mom in every day likes to do what she can because the children are important to her. “The children I work with, especially Kyndal, they inspire me,” Cary says. “Kyndal is such a hard worker. Sometimes she gets tired but with a little bribery she always keeps going. She is the sunshine in my day, always with a smiling face and adorable little attitude! She touches your heart.”